Haven’t been on an ice fishing destination vacation yet? Well, you’re missing out! One of the best ways to break up a long Winter is to take a vacation and embrace all that Mother Nature has to offer. These unique destinations and experiences provide not only great fishing but fun for the whole family. Whether you are planning a hardcore fishing trip with friends to catch that trophy, or a family getaway to teach the kids about the great outdoors, we have a few spots to recommend that are worth checking out.
Lake Sakakawea’s 1,500+ miles of shoreline and more than 380,000 surface acres offer phenomenal Walleye fishing and gets less pressured than many of the other lakes of this caliber. Sakakawea is the 3rd largest man-made reservoir in the country, so a guide is recommended on this vast body of water. Ice conditions can vary greatly, and the fish have plenty of places to hide. In 2017, biologists netted a 17 lb. Walleye while collecting survey data, with many other reports of 13+ lb. fish. Sakakawea could hold the next North Dakota State Record.
Sturgeon through the ice—yes, please! In 2012, the largest fish on record for Winnebago was taken, and it weighed 240 lbs. The Sturgeon Spectacular, held each year in February, creates a carnival like atmosphere on the ice with fireworks, comedy, softball tournaments, and even a chili crawl. Oh and don’t worry, if chasing Sturgeon isn’t your thing, Winnebago happens to hold one of the best Walleye populations in the state. Large Perch, Crappies and White Bass are available as well.
Located in Northern Minnesota, Red Lake covers over 440 square miles and is the 16th largest freshwater lake in the United States. Red is a favorite destination for anglers seeking early ice action. A very healthy Walleye population, and an underrated number of panfish make Red Lake an ice anglers mecca. Ample resorts, lodging, and on-ice rental houses offer something for everybody.
Devils Lake is the largest natural body of water in North Dakota, covering more than 200,000 acres. Devils is arguably the best inland Perch lake in the United States, producing its fair share of 2+ lb. fish, but Devils also holds large numbers of Walleye and Pike, and is considered one of the best ice fishing lakes in the world! Day trips with guides and accommodations are plentiful. Check out Devils Lake Tourism for more information.
Want to take a trip where you can have world class snowmobiling and ice fishing? Look no further than the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and Lake Gogebic. 2 lb. Perch and 300” of snow per year make this a winter wonderland that needs to be explored. The north end of the 14+ mile-long lake boasts excellent Walleye fishing, while the various Wiggler beds in mud flats of the main basin of the lake hold the key to catching a 2 lb. Perch.
Lake of the Woods has shoreline in Minnesota, Ontario, and Manitoba, and many refer to it as the 6th great lake. With over 14,000 islands and an area covering 1,727 miles, Lake of the Woods offers many different experiences for ice anglers. Whether you rent a sleeper shack on the U.S. side and target Walleye and Perch day and night, or you want to venture miles down the lake on a snowmobile to catch 15” plus Crappies, the Northwest Angle & Sunset Country, Ontario—aka Lake of the Woods—should be on every ice anglers bucket list.
Lake Erie may possibly hold the best big Walleye potential in all of the Ice Belt, but its inconsistent freezing patterns make it a more difficult trip to plan. If the lake freezes—and you can get accommodations—you should definitely save a weekend in January to go chase these monster numbers of giant Walleyes as they migrate from the Eastern to the Western basin of the lake. It’s not an every year opportunity, but many who have done it say it’s a “once in a lifetime Walleye Day” opportunity.
Lake Winnipeg is a massive, relatively shallow lake located in southern Manitoba. Winnipeg is a Walleye fisherman’s paradise and is home to the famous Greenback Walleye. These fish are known not only for their voracious daytime feeding and huge size, but also their translucent green tint. Lake Winnipeg should be a top destination if you are looking to catch a 30” plus Walleye.
For a truly unique ice fishing trip, head East to Maine and check out all that Sebago Lake has to offer. At over 300 feet in depth, Sebago is home to various Trout and Salmon species, and provides wonderful Northern Pike fishing. If you want to make a weekend of it, check out one of the many Fishing Derbies on the lake throughout January and February that often include snowmobile runs and many fun events for the community.